Christmas on the cardiac ward

The phone call came towards the end of November – we had a date for Jessica’s open-heart surgery. We had hoped that we might be able to have Christmas together first but it was not to be – the surgery was set for 14th December.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

We couldn’t focus on the thought of Christmas – not with such a huge obstacle in the way of it all. I took Jessica to see Santa at the local shopping centre, determined to at least get one Christmassy photo before she went into hospital but otherwise all our thoughts were on the operation and praying that Jessica would get through it. It would be her biggest surgery to date – and the riskiest – an attempt to combine two major procedures and replumb her little heart.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

Two Christmasses before, my dad had died suddenly in the run-up to Christmas; the previous Christmas I had suddenly been made redundant ten days before Christmas and I prayed that bad things would not come in threes as far as Christmas was concerned. We spent early December focusing on enjoying the moments with our three-month old daughter and trying hard not to think of what lay ahead.

The day before the surgery was a whirlwind of medical checks – blood tests, ECGs, echocardiograms and X-rays, talks with the surgeon and the anaesthetist. As I sat giving Jessica her last breastfeed in the early hours of the morning, I took in every detail of her little face, how she felt in my arms and locked it away in my heart, praying that there would be more moments like this. The wait for the porters to come to escort her to theatre that morning felt endless and yet too short. We kissed her goodbye and managed to stay strong as we handed her to the anaesthetist but broke down the minute she disappeared from our sight.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big LoveUp on the ward, we tried to stay distracted, helping the staff put up Christmas decorations, filling in Jessica’s baby book, reading magazines – anything to keep us occupied during the hours of waiting. It was late evening before we were finally told that Jessica was out of theatre and heading to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). The surgery had been difficult and complex and they had not been able to do both procedures as hoped meaning that further surgery would be needed in the new year, but for now Jessica was stable although her recovery was likely to be rocky. We certainly got a taste of that later that night as shortly after leaving PICU having seen her, we were called to come back immediately as Jessica’s sats were dropping and the surgeon needed to open her chest there and then on the unit as they suspected a blood clot. We were told to give her a quick kiss and wait in the parents’ room for news – the most terrifying hour of our lives as we were both utterly convinced that we were about to lose her. Thankfully she got through and whilst her recovery was slow and bumpy, she was well enough to be transferred back up to the ward ten days later – on Christmas Eve.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

We had had a couple of Christmassy visits whilst on PICU – one from Peppa Pig and George and another from Father Christmas (when we were interviewed for the local news) and although we were spending Jessica’s first Christmas in hospital, we were both full of joy – our daughter was here and we were spending Christmas as a family. It didn’t matter where we were, just as long as we were together.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

The staff went to a lot of effort to try and make it as nice as possible for the families on the ward. When I went to see Jessica on Christmas morning, there was a stocking next to her bed (in addition to the one I had hung the previous night) which had been left there by the ward Santa with a couple of presents for her and a couple of thoughtful little gifts for hubby and myself. Later that morning, Father Christmas himself came to visit and wish us a Merry Christmas (although admittedly got a little more than he bargained for as I had been expressing milk when he arrived and forgot to put my breast away before getting up to take photos!)

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

The day I flashed Santa

After having been so very poorly down on PICU, Jessica was starting to look better again and the best Christmas present came that morning when we were treated to our first smiles since her surgery. It was wonderful to be able to pick her up again and give her cuddles – which we hadn’t been able to do for a week after the surgery – and whilst it was still awkward with all the tubes and wires, it was still the best feeling ever to have her back in my arms where she belonged.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big LoveChristmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

We left the hospital to have our Christmas lunch later in the afternoon whilst Jessica had her nap. Hubby’s parents had come down to spend Christmas Day with us and a couple of friends who lived locally (but had gone away for Christmas) had given us their house key so we could go and heat up our Christmas dinner (which my in-laws had brought with them) and sit at the table together having a proper Christmas dinner in comfort rather than in a hospital canteen. It was so kind of them and helped give us some feeling of normality that day. Later that evening, after hubby’s parents had left, a close friend of mine also visited with presents and a big bag of Christmassy snacks and nibbles so we could have an evening feast.

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

Having our first family Christmas in hospital with a poorly baby is perhaps an odd choice for a favourite Christmas memory but it really brought home the meaning of Christmas. We were together as a family, feeling very thankful and incredibly blessed to be so and the little touches that helped make that Christmas extra special were due to the kindness and thoughtfulness of friends, family and the ward staff. The little unexpected stocking gifts, being able to have Christmas dinner in a home environment, having a friend take time out of her own family Christmas to help us celebrate and feeling so utterly surrounded by love and prayer was what made it a magical Christmas. Not to mention the best Christmas gift of all – having our baby girl there with us, thanks to the wonderful skills of the surgeon and the medical team. Family, blessings and love – what more really could we have asked for?

Christmas on the cardiac ward - Little Hearts, Big Love

Merry Christmas! This post is my entry into the Tots100/Little Tikes 12 Days of Christmas competition

Linking up with mumturnedmom for the Prompt – ‘Christmas

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25 thoughts on “Christmas on the cardiac ward

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you – it was very emotional but so wonderful to be together and really did bring home what Christmas was all about to me x

  1. MamaBlueberry

    Oh my goodness, I totally cried reading this you are a very brave family. That is one moment I can never imagine having to deal with and the photos too..I just want to come and give every one of you a big hug! Thank goodness your little one pulled through. Thank you for sharing. I wish you the best Christmas.

    1. Louise Post author

      Sorry to make you cry and thank you for the virtual hugs! It was a very tough ride towards Christmas but being together on Christmas Day was just the best. Hope you have a lovely Christmas too x

  2. Vickie

    Oh my, I’m blinking back tears having read this. I am in awe of your strength, and that of your husband and especially Jessica. I am so very glad that Jessica pulled through the surgery and has gone on to be a wonderful little girl and a brilliant big sister. Vx

  3. Wave to Mummy

    This post and your words brought tears to my eyes. What a terrible time, and what a joyous time at the same time, being scared for her but happy that you got to spend Christmas together… She looks so happy looking at her mumma and so peaceful sleeping in daddy’s arms… Beautiful. Big hugs to you all!

  4. Maddy@writingbubble

    Such a heart-warming post. The love just leaps out of the pictures and your words. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for you – if only you could have known then, how well she is doing now! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. xx #thePrompt

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you Maddy – it was incredibly scary but a huge blessing to be together for Christmas and so wonderful to be able to watch her grow and develop – she brings us so much joy. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too x

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you – I love that photo, it was such a wonderful moment after the rollercoaster ride that preceded it. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too x

  5. John Adams

    My word, I just cannot imagine what that must have been like. Your post, however, is remarkably positive and, sentimental old fool I am, I concede it bought a tear to my eye. How lucky you were ot have such wonderful hospital staff and family with you. a very inspiring and uplifiting peice of writing. #ThePrompt

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you – it was an incredibly scary time and we are immensely grateful to all the hospital staff who looked after Jessica and helped to get her to where she is today. That first Christmas was magical despite being in hospital because we were all together and surrounded by love – we really couldn’t have asked for more.

  6. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Such a wonderful post Louise, written with such positivity and focussing on what is truly important. I cried when you wrote about watching them take her for surgery, I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been. But, the photos of your first Christmas with Jessica really are ones to treasure. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt. Have a wonderful Christmas xx

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you Sara – sorry for making you cry. It is very scary watching someone take your child away for surgery and the wait feels endless. We are so thankful to all the medical staff though for helping get Jessica get here today. That first Christmas was incredibly special – it was so wonderful for us to be together and to be surrounded by so much love – it really did bring home what Christmas was all about. Lovely to link up to #ThePrompt and thank you for hosting it each week. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas too x

  7. Chrissie (@rantybeast)

    Wow. This is beautiful. It sums up Christmas, I think – a time to be with the people you love. I can’t begin to imagine your fear about her return to the unit when things went awry and I’m so glad this has a happy ending.
    Merry Christmas xx

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you Chrissie – that first Christmas certainly brought home the real meaning of Christmas for us. It was magical despite being in hospital. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas x

  8. Nicola Young

    What a beautifully written post and a perfect example of the true meaning of Christmas, like you said. It must have been such a scary time for you, I can’t even begin to imagine. It must be great to look back and think how far you have come since then. This is a reminder of how fragile life can be and how we should be thankful and treasure the good times and each other.

    1. Louise Post author

      Thank you – it was very scary but so wonderful to be together that first Christmas. Lovely to see how well she is doing now though and have definitely learned to enjoy and appreciate the little moments as a result.

  9. Tracey @ mummyshire

    So beautifully written & totally gets to the meaning of Christmas – family is so very important. You have all come such a long way, and it’s lovely seeing Jessica now enjoying life and being so smiley
    Xx

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